Here we go again. The shadow of war is again cast over the Persian Gulf. Having already destroyed Iraq over the past decade and more, the US is now threatening to do the same to Iran.
The escalation of events in recent weeks is, frankly, alarming, but a military invasion of Iran will not end in the same way as it did in Iraq. While Iraq itself as a country was never really subdued, the US and UK-led war of aggression did succeed in killing more than a million people. It also ignited a brutal sectarian civil war which tore the country apart for years, as well as birthing ISIS/Daesh, the so-called Islamic State. Moreover, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fell quite easily.
The government of Iran will not fall in the same easy manner that Saddam’s did in 2003. The US and its regional puppets, clients, and allies know this. So what Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all seem to be agitating for is not a full-scale invasion, which is likely to be defeated easily by Iran’s substantial military forces. Instead, the push seems more to be towards a bombing campaign, by air and sea, without the boots on the ground which would lead to too many body bags heading back home. Blanket bombing would weaken Iran and its armed forces.
As a major regional power, Iran is a country which, since 1979, has refused to submit to the dictates of US hegemony. It has independent domestic and foreign policies, which is anathema to the imperial power and its clients. This explains the true reasons for US hostility.
Although the US and its allies are already engaged in warfare against Iran by other means — terrorism, cyberwar, and brutal sanctions — they have so far not engaged in an outright military assault. Why is that? Well, Iran has credible military capabilities, and the capacity to launch attacks against the US and its allied assets across the region.
Thanks to Washington’s belligerence, tensions are now so high that it would not take much for a chain of events to be set off which result in a full-scale war in the region. Indeed, the Americans, largely via and on behalf of Israeli interests, is pushing Iran into this, almost despite themselves.
In 2015, the US and five other world powers made a deal with the government in Tehran to curb sanctions on Iran in exchange for a limit on its nuclear energy programme. Israel was never happy with the deal, and ever since has been pushing hard, through its lobby in the US, for an end to the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”. Pro-Israel lobby groups associated with far right, anti-Palestinian billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for example, are behind this. Not coincidentally, Adelson was also Trump’s top donor and he and his wife also donated more than $55 million to Republican Congressional election campaigns last year.
Israel is now pushing strongly on all fronts for war against Iran. The sketchy US “intelligence” which is alleged to prove that Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman just outside the Persian Gulf, has been supplemented by equally sketchy British “intelligence” on another supposed Iranian-linked plot in recent weeks.
According to a report in the Telegraph, British spy agencies claim that in 2015 they secretly caught an alleged agent stockpiling “explosive materials” in North West London as part of “an international Hezbollah plot to lay the groundwork for future attacks.” Iran arms and funds Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The report is based on information from “a UK intelligence source”. While it is careful not to name Israel, it states that MI5 acted on “a tip-off from a foreign government.” Israeli press reports stated that this government was indeed Israel.
Notably, the report does not claim that the materials were being stockpiled for attacks in Britain, although it seems to want to give that impression. That’s something that Hezbollah would be highly unlikely to do; as well as being a political party which has long been part of Lebanon’s government, Hezbollah is an armed resistance movement devoted to fighting Israeli occupation, in Lebanon and in Palestine. While it has intervened to shore up the government of Bashar Al-Assad in neighbouring Syria –a long-time Hezbollah supporter – London is not within its usual theatre of operations.
There’s a lot about the Telegraph report that doesn’t add up. The headline claims that the alleged Hezbollah agent — who was eventually released without charge, by the way — was stockpiling “explosives”, but we learn in the text that these were actually “explosives materials”, namely “thousands of disposable ice packs”. These were said to contain an ingredient held in common with homemade bombs.
Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese professor and Hezbollah expert, has cast doubt on this. Why would Hezbollah, she asked, “one of the most powerful military forces in the [Middle East], with precision-guided missiles and other advanced conventional capabilities” content itself with homemade bombs?
In fact, the whole narrative of the report – that this alleged plot was covered up by British politicians in order to protect the then-fresh Iran nuclear deal – seems far-fetched. Based on MI5 and Israeli Mossad sources, its release seems to have been aimed at increasing the pressure on Iran, hence the headline describing Hezbollah as “Iran-linked terrorists”.
For the sake of all concerned, a war with Iran is best avoided. If past experience of Western military interventions is anything to go by, it will not end well for the aggressors.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.